Local News

First Responders Learn About Dangers Of Meth At Johnston Conference

Posted March 22, 2004

— Methamphetamine is the fastest-growing illegal drug in North Carolina. Last year, agents brought down 177 meth labs, in comparison to just six in 1999. Attorney General Roy Cooper wants to change those numbers by providing law enforcement with special training.

Law enforcement, social workers and health professionals attended the Johnston County Drug Endangered Children Program Training Conference Monday to deal with the growing problem of meth labs and children who grow up by them. Drug agents say it is not only dangerous for users, but meth is dangerous for those who make it or are exposed to it.

Last week in Harnett County,

two people were arrested

in Cameron for running a meth lab. While no children were found at the home, there are labs like that one involving kids all over the state. Drug agents say they are finding children in 25 percent of the homes that have meth labs.

Cooper is worried about the toxic dangers of the homemade drug labs. Not only do children face serious health risks such as chemically induced pneumonia and respiratory injuries, but they are often neglected and abused in these settings. That is why he and other drug fighters believe social workers need to be trained to detect the hidden labs and people who secretly use the drug.

"Feeding the children becomes second to the drug," he said. "Maintaining children's health becomes second to the drug. It's a very tragic situation."

Johnston, Watauga, Ashe and Harnett are four counties in North Carolina that have some of the biggest problems with meth labs.

In late January, Cooper released a preliminary report that includes a plan to stop the spread of meth. Recommendations contained in the report include tougher penalties for meth cooks, increased public awareness of the problem and help for children found in meth labs.

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